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May 10, 2017
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In LaCurtis v. Express Medical Transporters, Inc., the Eighth Circuit determined that the present design and configuration of a vehicle, rather than its original manufacture capacity, determines the vehicle driver’s eligibility for overtime pay through the Motor Carrier Act exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Motor Carrier Exemption exempts drivers of large vehicles from overtime pay regulations under specific conditions. “Small vehicles” that weigh 10,000 pounds or less and which transport fewer than eight passengers for compensation, are one of various exceptions to the Exemption rule.
In LaCurtis, the plaintiffs all drove paralift vans that were originally manufactured to accommodate 12 or 15 passengers. Prior to being added to the company’s fleet, the vans had been modified to accommodate wheelchairs. With the modified configuration, the paralift vans could transport no more than seven passengers and weighed less than 10,000 pounds, thus qualifying under the small vehicle exception. The plaintiffs argued that they were therefore entitled to overtime pay.
The district court and Eighth Circuit agreed and deferred to the U.S. Department of Labor Field Assistant Bulletin No. 2010-2, which determines a vehicle’s capacity based on the current design as found on the door jamb plate. Though FAB No. 2010-2 did not specifically refer to a temporal qualifier to distinguish at what point in time the design would be considered for the purpose of determining its qualifying configuration, the Eighth Circuit reasoned that the term “design” could not be interpreted to mean the original manufacture only. The court affirmed that the current, seven-seat design of the paralift vans were valid and that the paralift drivers were owed overtime pay.
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